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Nigeria Denies Bail in Fraud Case, Citing Suspects' Attempt to Bribe Officials - 2004-02-23

The suspects in Nigeria's largest case of fraud have been denied bail. The case, which is part of the government's new campaign against corruption, involves the embezzlement of $242 million from a bank in Brazil.

The three suspects allegedly got the money from an employee at Brazil's Banco Noroeste, after promising him a commission on what turned out to be a fake airport building project.

The defendants were denied bail because the judge, Justice Mohammed Lawal Gummi, said he believed that if the defendants were set free, they would try to bribe witnesses in the case. The judge said the defendants' lawyers had already tried to bribe government officials.

The lawyers are accused of trying to bribe officials from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

The chairman of the commission, Nuhu Ribadu, says he accepted the bribe offered by the lawyers in order to use it as evidence in the case.

"They came with massive bags of money saying look, this is just for you and this is just part of the shares and then the second the matter is finished we will give you more and so on," he said. "But I think there is a big change. You can see what is going on in our courts now, all of them are remanded in prison custody."

Nigeria has become known for international financial crimes in which foreigners are offered money if they pay a fee in advance and provide their bank account details.

The Nigerian government has been working to fight fraud and corruption, after being repeatedly criticized by international organizations.